Legendary screen icons Gary Cooper (High Noon) and Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) teamup for a magnificent, action-packed western from director Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen) and screenwriters Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb. With sweeping vistas and larger-than-life heroics,it's a tale as bold and rugged as the characters it so brilliantly depicts. Cooper and Lancaster portray Benjamin Trane and Joe Erin, two daredevil mercenaries who journey to Mexico in search of adventureand cold hard cashduring the 1866 revolution. But they get more than they bargained for when the wealthy and beautiful Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel) hires them to escort her (and a fortune in gold!) to Emperor Maximilian's fighting forces in Vera Cruz. The trail is fraught with danger, betrayal and murder...and when Ben is swept up in the revolutionaries' fervor, he and Joe find themselves at odds with the Mexican Armyand each other!
"You're the first friend I ever had," grins flamboyant mercenary Burt Lancaster to lean, laconic Gary Cooper with a smile that suggests that he may be the last. They're a pair of Americans abroad looking to cash in on the Mexican revolution by selling their services to the highest bidder in this energetically cynical south-of-the-border Western. They meet cute, conning, robbing, and out-witting one another in a bit of one-upmanship that bonds the men in mutual admiration, and then team up to escort a royal convoy through revolutionary country. When they discover its secret stash of gold bullion, they revert to their old way, selling out anyone it takes to get the treasure for themselves, even each other. Played out as a seat-of-the-pants con game of shifting alliances and double crosses, this is a cheerfully ruthless tale that served as a veritable blueprint for the Italian spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s. Director Robert Aldrich has a real flair for turning rogues and opportunists into deviously riveting characters, and went on to work the same sort of magic on Kiss Me Deadly
and The Dirty Dozen
. The cast of character actors features Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, and Jack Elam in the gang, George Macready as Emperor Maximilian, and Henry Brandon as the martinet German captain Danette. --Sean Axmaker